Firefighters in Bridgewater, Ellsworth, Mattawamkeag and Naples will share $368,040 to buy new equipment or to increase training thanks to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant program, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Wednesday.
Calling the paid and volunteer firefighters “our bravest public servants,” Collins said the grant program is especially helpful in rural areas or small communities where funding for big-ticket items often is scarce.
“Since the creation of this program, Maine fire departments have been awarded more than $50 million to help purchase new, used or refurbished vehicles, and to obtain equipment for firefighting, interoperable communications, chemical detection and other purposes that are essential to first responders,” Collins said in a state-ment released Wednesday.
Bridgewater will receive $32,471; Ellsworth, $97,727; Mattawamkeag, $190,000; and Naples, $47,842. The funding is provided through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, or FIRE Act. The grants go to fire departments nationally for new equipment and to increase the effectiveness of firefighting operations, and fire-fighter health and safety, emergency medical service and fire prevention and safety programs, said Collins, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Mattawamkeag’s grant will buy the northern Penobscot County volunteer department a used firetruck that will replace the department’s lead pumper, which Deputy Chief Lynn Powers said was a 1986 unit badly in need of replacement. She let out a cheer when notified of the grant award.
“Our lead engine is really dying a slow death,” Powers said Wednesday. “The pump is pretty much shot, and we are a rural department so we need to have a drafting truck, because we use a lot of folding tanks at scenes.”
Folding tanks are rubberized pools that firefighters erect to hold water that several trucks can draw from simultaneously. They used are often in rural areas such as Mattawamkeag, where hydrants are scarce.
Mattawamkeag firefighters had applied for a grant to buy a new lead truck in 2007, 2009 and 2010, Powers said. They have been repairing the old pumper regularly. They received a grant in 2004 that helped them buy a new tanker.
They will begin looking immediately for a secondhand replacement with a 1,200-gallon-per-minute pump, 1,000-gallon tank and, they hope, a chemical foam tank. Anyone selling such a unit may call the station at 736-2931 or Fire Chief Robert Powers, Lynn’s husband, at 290-7510, she said.
Ellsworth’s grant will provide truck-mounted exhaust systems for $43,000 and a mobile breathing-air compression and tank storage system. The truck-mounted exhaust systems will save fire station and City Hall visitors from exposure to carbon monoxide and diesel-engine particulates, Fire Chief Jon Marshall said. The station is in the City Hall basement.
“We have been awfully fortunate with these grants. I think these have been the fifth we have received in 10 years,” Marshall said.
The exhaust systems will replace a floor-mounted exhaust system in the fire station “that doesn’t function as well as it should,” Marshall said. It has been in the floor since the station was renovated in 1998.